Robert Strachan

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Robert Strachan
11th British Columbia Leader of the Opposition
In office
April 6, 1956 – April 12, 1969
Premier W.A.C. Bennett
Preceded by Arnold Webster
Succeeded by Thomas R. Berger
Leader of the British Columbia
Co-operative Commonwealth Federation/New Democratic Party
In office
April 6, 1956 – April 12, 1969
Preceded by Arnold Webster
Succeeded by Thomas R. Berger
Member of the British Columbia Legislative Assembly
for Cowichan-Malahat
Cowichan-Newcastle (1952-1966)
In office
June 12, 1952 – October 5, 1975
Preceded by Andrew Mowatt Whisker
Succeeded by Barbara Wallace
Personal details
Born (1913-12-01)December 1, 1913
Glasgow, Scotland
Died July 21, 1981(1981-07-21) (aged 67)
Victoria, British Columbia
Cause of death Lung Cancer
Political party British Columbia New Democratic Party
Occupation Carpenter/Trade Unionist

Robert Martin Strachan (December 1, 1913 – July 21, 1981) was a trade unionist and politician. He was the longest serving Leader of the Opposition in British Columbia history.[1]

Born in Glasgow, Scotland, Strachan was a carpenter by trade. He immigrated to Canada after quitting a 10-shilling-a-week job as messenger boy in Glasgow to go to Nova Scotia on a $10-a-week farm labor scheme. He moved west, in 1931, to the northern B.C. copper-smelting town of Anyox and then to Powell River, where he became a carpenter and an active unionist eventually becoming British Columbia head of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.[1]

In 1952, he was elected to the British Columbia Legislative Assembly as an MLA for the socialist Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. In 1956, he was elected CCF leader thus becoming Leader of the Opposition to the Social Credit government of W.A.C. Bennett. Strachan's CCF ran in the 1960 general election on the platform of nationalizing the province's private hydro-electric company, B.C. Electric. Bennett denounced the idea during the election campaign but, in 1961, turned around and announced plans to do exactly that in order to create BC Hydro leading Strachan to denounce the Social Credit government as hypocrites.[2][3]

He remained leader after the party transformed into the British Columbia New Democratic Party in 1961. He defeated a leadership challenge by "Young Turk" Thomas Berger in 1967, but sensing a mood for change he stepped down in 1969.[1][4]

Strachan remained in the legislature, however, and was appointed Highways Minister when the NDP formed government for the first time as a result of the 1972 general election. He was appointed to the new position of Minister of Transport and Communications in 1973. Strachan oversaw the implementation of the NDP's promise to institute public automobile insurance and was responsible for the creation of the government owned Insurance Corporation of British Columbia. Strachan left politics in 1975 when he was appointed the province's agent general to the United Kingdom by Premier Dave Barrett. He served in the position for almost two years.[1]

He died of lung cancer in 1981.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e Canadian Press, "Robert Strachan Led CCF-NDP in opposition for 13 years in B.C. House", Globe and Mail, July 22, 1981
  2. ^ Palmer, Vaughn, "Robert Bonner was the bright young Mr. Fixit for W.A.C. Bennett", Vancouver Sun, August 17, 2005
  3. ^ Mitchell, David J., "The power of politics A Bennett takeover to change the Socreds", Globe and Mail, October 15, 1983
  4. ^ Johnson, William, "Two heroic men in a conflict", Globe and Mail, July 6, 1983
Preceded by
Arnold Webster
Leader of the Opposition
in the British Columbia Legislature

Succeeded by
Thomas Berger